Wes Anderson is one of the few directors whose style of film-making I absolutely loathe. I took a liking for Rushmore but other than that, I found all his films either plain lazy or too subtle for their own good. I just couldn’t decide which. I never managed to find the motivating factor behind his characters and their actions. It echoed the experience of watching a foreign film without subtitles. But what’s worse is the distant way with which he treats his characters. Anderson writes damaged characters and weighs them down with heavy baggage from the past while he rolls on the floor laughing with his finger pointed at them. I don’t believe Kubrick or even The Old Mallick saw their characters with such iciness. While those two auteurs saw their characters through alien eyes, Anderson sees his through those of a heartless little prankster. Even crueller is the bright-and-sunny exterior; a clear indication that the film-maker takes pleasure in torturing his characters. To make a long story short, I rarely get Anderson’s films but when I do, I’m mostly appalled.
When Terence Mallick returned after a twenty-year hiatus with The Thin red line, I can only imagine how people must’ve felt. This was a different Mallick. He wasn’t just seeing his characters, he was feeling them. This particular trait was predominant in The New World and more so in The Tree of Life. As feeling became more and more abstract, Mallick’s films became more and more amorphous. Wes Anderson takes a similar turn with Moonrise Kingdom.All these years, Wes Anderson attempted to walk an impossible tightrope. He tried to get us to laugh with, and at, these characters while also feeling for them. He succeeded, to some extent, at the first two but failed miserably at the third. This was mainly attributed to us being unable to take his characters seriously. Instead of traversing character arcs, they quickly slide through montages.
Moonrise Kingdom happens to be the first sign of Anderson being able to actually empathize with troubled, imperfect characters. This is also his first film that has a kernel, to which all his ideas can bind together into a perfect whole. This is Wes Anderson’s first complete film. His vision is more crystallized here and his characters bear similarities suggesting that they are all products of the same environment. When I finished watching Fantastic Mr. Fox, I swore never to watch another Anderson Film once I had reviewed Moonrise Kingdom. But this is a mark of maturity, so I’m going to have to bail on that.
From rapidly shuffling through vignettes and drawn-out dialogue for characterization, Anderson’s gone to doing with simple pieces of dialogue. He continues to use his favourite cinematographic techniques but here, they seep through subliminally unlike, for instance, in The Darjeeling Limited, which has one of the most distracting camerawork I’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering. I was particularly impressed with Anderson’s choice to use the same camera movements to compare and contrast the state of the khaki scout camp, Camp Ivanhoe. It reminded me of the way Kubrick left a homosexual connotation in a certain scene in A Clockwork Orange.
Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most peculiar dark comedies I’ve ever seen. Despite my suspension of disbelief, I often felt the need to shake myself out of what was happening and remind myself that this was only a movie. Certain events make the film too damn bizarre. But they also make it equally intoxicating.
Just like every other film in his repertoire, there are subtle strokes and random quirks from Anderson, except here, they’re more clever than perplexing. As much as I would love to bring them up, I wouldn’t want to spoil the film for you. Wes Anderson, who generally puts his characters in a story of redemption and frolics over watching them try to set things right, finally allows his characters to resolve issues. That mature choice is what makes Moonrise Kingdom bittersweet.